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Jalen Hurts has delivered big fantasy points. But is taking him early the best way to draft fantasy football?

Best Way to Draft Fantasy Football

By Lenny Pappano | Updated on Wed, 15 May 2024 . 4:51 PM EDT
  1. Know Your Rules (no kidding) ... The First Way To Win Your DraftGet the key details that will set you apart
  2. Use Dynamic Player Valuations – Not Just RankingsDiscover why rankings change as you draft
  3. Outsmart Your Competition By Understanding Positional ScarcityLearn why the highest-scoring player isn’t the most valuable
  4. Take Advantage of Mock Drafting To StrategizePractice making your perfect draft picks
  5. Hunt For Late-Round Fantasy StudsGet the formula for drafting hidden league-winners
  6. Manage Risk By Avoiding Busts & Injury RisksSpot a dicey draft pick with this method
  7. Live Draft Sync Technology … The Best Way to Execute All the Best Ways to DraftLeverage the difference-making tool of 2024

Top Draft Tips from a Longtime Pro

I don’t know everything about the best ways to draft for fantasy football …

But I gotta tell you – I am an OG in the fantasy industry:

I co-founded back in the last century (1999). And then the World Championship of Fantasy Football three years later.

So it’s fair to say that I’ve witnessed damn near everything when it comes to fantasy football drafting. From the “good” to the “great” … to the “OMG I can’t believe he just made that mistake!”

With all that in mind … I feel compelled on my 26th anniversary of heading up Draft Sharks to share some of the best ways to draft for 2024.

And here they are, my friend:


1. Know the Rules (no kidding) ... The First Way To Win Your Draft

In Vince Lombardi’s first team meeting as Packers head coach, he showed the team a football, and remarked, “This, gentlemen, is a football…” Talk about starting at the beginning…

Fantasy football is a bit similar. Gotta master the simple things first:

Before you lay out money to play, you MUST know your league rules and format

Sounds like everyone would know that. They don’t.

Check out a platform like the FFPC (Fantasy Football Players Championship). A quick glance shows there are no fewer than 12 different formats and variations. That includes “Slim Drafts,” “Terminal Leagues,” and even a “Playoff Challenge.”  

Not to mention: You start two flex players, and TEs get 1.5 points per catch.

Vince Lombardi knew his league's rules.

There are plenty of stories of FFPC team owners who – having thought they won their league – were reminded to go back and read their league rules. Other stories of team owners who built an insufficient roster because they didn’t know how many rounds the draft went.

But even if you’ve been playing in the same league for years, you need to know the rules and scoring format for a somewhat different reason. This one is huge: Figuring out the true value of your player rankings.

QBs are valued differently in leagues that award 4 points per passing TD vs. 6. WRs are valued differently in leagues that require you to start three vs. two.

Key Insight

Knowing the scoring rules and league setup, format, starting rosters, etc. is the foundation to knowing the best way to draft for your particular league. It will determine your player rankings and values.

Best Way to Execute

The most important rules to check on are (i) the scoring rules, (ii) your league format, and (iii) position requirements for your starting roster. A simple and flawless way to execute is to get a cheat sheet that live syncs to your draft.



2. Use Dynamic Player Valuations – Not Just Rankings

“Dynamic player valuation” means a player's fantasy value changes based on a number of factors.

Take scoring and lineup settings, for example. Using the FFPC again: TEs get 1.5 points per reception (PPR). (That’s why it’s called “TE-premium” scoring.) And you can use a TE in your flex spots.

That makes a big difference in the value of a TE – as well as all the other positions in relation to TE.

Travis Kelce
Will he climb your rankings if he dumps Taylor?

When things change during the draft, you need to be smart about picking players who are bargains or steering clear of those priced too high, all based on what's happening right then.

By being flexible, you'll boost your chances of putting together a winning team that fits just right with your league's special scoring rules and team needs.

Key Insight

Player values are not static and vary greatly depending on your league's scoring format, size, and roster setup. But values also depend on how your draft unfolds and your team needs.

Best Way to Execute

Use tools that adjust player rankings in real-time based on your league’s setup, draft trends, and your specific team needs. That way, you're always aware of the best value on the board.



3. Outsmart Your Competition By Understanding Positional Scarcity

Positional scarcity = player value

In fantasy football drafts, not every position carries the same value. And as the draft unfolds, some positions lose good players faster than others. This means you have to be smart about when to pick players for these important spots.

For example, QB is the highest-scoring position in most leagues. But elite RBs and WRs typically get drafted first because you need more starters at those positions and their scoring drops off more sharply.

That's why the best way to draft is generally to prioritize RBs and WRs while waiting on  QBs and TEs.

Did you even realize this kicker outscored Sam LaPorta last year?
Did you even realize this kicker outscored Sam LaPorta last year?

To underscore the point: Ask yourself why kickers are drafted so late even though they can outscore other positions. 

In 2023, the top-ranked TE (Sam LaPorta, 149 points by ESPN scoring) was outscored by the top-ranked K (Brandon Aubrey, 155).

The answer is simple: Kickers are drafted lower than TEs because of “positional scarcity.”  There are more kickers who can put up high point totals than there are TEs who can. Ergo, high-scoring TEs are more valuable based on their scarcity.

Key Insight

The talent drop-off varies across positions, significantly impacting your draft strategy.

Best Way to Execute

Prioritize positions with limited depth, ensuring you secure top talent where it counts. The best tools have these built into their suggested player algorithm.



4. Take Advantage of Mock Drafting to Strategize

Now that you understand some of the basic best ways to draft … it’s time to start (mock) drafting!

Strategic mock drafting is like a full-scale war game in advance of your actual fantasy football draft. It’s where you can experiment with different draft scenarios in a no-stakes environment.

By participating in mock drafts from various draft positions, you get a feel for potential scenarios you might face, helping you adapt your strategy on the fly when the real draft comes.

Mock drafting
Mock drafting: The best way to practice crushing your opponents … before crushing your opponents

This practice allows you to identify late-round sleeper picks (more about that in a minute …), understand positional depth, and gauge when to draft your targets. 

Essentially, mock drafts are a critical tool for honing your draft-day game plan.

Key Insight

Mock drafts let you build your “draft muscles” in a no-risk environment. Feel free to test strategies and adapt to various scenarios.

Best Way to Execute

First, find a mock draft simulator that can accommodate your league setup and scoring rules. Next, engage in mocks from different draft positions to explore strategies. Use these exercises to refine your draft approach.

Let the Mock Draft Trainer Prepare You



5. Hunt for Late-Round Fantasy Studs

You’ll actually want to use your mock draft sessions to identify the players you’ll target in the late rounds of your REAL draft … 

When you're deep into the draft, and the obvious choices are off the board, that's your cue to roll the dice on potential breakout players. This is where your draft will go from “good” to championship-level great.

Puka or Mosert
Bag the next Puka or Mosert - Crush your draft!

Look for those under-the-radar players. Maybe it's a rookie who has earned a starting spot because of his preseason performance … or a second-year player poised for a breakout due to an improved offense or an expanded role. 

It could even be a veteran coming back from injury, who’s now overlooked and undervalued.

These late-round picks have the potential to drastically outperform their ADP, giving your fantasy team a boatload of unexpected points.

Key Insight

The later rounds of your draft give you opportunities to gamble on potential breakout studs.

Best Way to Execute

Focus on young players stepping into new roles, those returning from injury, or guys in enhanced offensive systems. These picks can bring you a fantasy championship. Looking for a tool that does this automatically late in your draft?  Check out Upside Mode on the Draft War Room.

How Can Upside Mode Help YOUR Draft?



6. Manage Risk By Avoiding Busts & Injury Risks

Risk management in fantasy football – much like in investing – involves balancing the potential for high rewards against taking a big hit. 

So how do we minimize that risk? 

Warren Buffet – arguably the most successful investor of all time – nails it perfectly when he says:

"Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."

Ain’t that the truth?!? 

So it’s your job to “know what you’re doing”  while you draft.

When you mock draft, does your roster look like the “Just About to Retire” team? Is a hospital ward about to be named after the injury magnets you drafted?

Manage Risk By Avoiding Busts & Injury Risks

Warren Buffett: Worth $128 billion because he has won 75% of his fantasy leagues by minimizing risk


To be sure, fantasy football is full of surprises. Every player comes with a certain level of risk, whether it's due to injury history, inconsistency, or changes in team dynamics.

That means by analyzing injury predictors and historical performance data, you can identify which players carry higher risks.

It doesn’t mean you don’t ever pick those players. But you value them more realistically in light of their risk level.

Key Insight

All players come with some risks. Looking at their injury history, age, team environment, and how they've performed in recent years can help you understand these risks.

Best Way to Execute

Mix reliable players with riskier options who could score big. Don’t ignore past injuries or recent performance. At bottom, be realistic in your valuation and treatment of risky players – for both their upside and downside. The Injury Predictor score is a great guide to determining injury risk.



7. Live Draft Sync Technology … the Best Way To Execute All The Best Ways to Draft

So how do we wrap up all the “best ways to draft” into THE best way to draft?

For me, this one’s a complete no-brainer.

When I co-founded in 1999, the internet was in its infancy. Every fantasy football cheat sheet was static. Most league commissioners calculated scoring by using newspaper box scores. And Christian McCaffrey was potty training.

2024 is a whole new world of technology. And live draft sync is the best way to draft.

Simply sync your league’s draft to a tool that incorporates the 6 best ways you just read about …

And your draft experience will be life-altering:

Using "live draft sync" is like having a fantasy expert who works with your draft in real-time, giving you tips on who to pick as the draft happens.

With live draft sync, you're not just guessing or going off your homework. You get fresh advice and ideas right when you need them, making your choices smarter as you go.

Live Draft Sync Technology

It keeps track of who's been picked, shows you the top players that fit your team, and looks at what's happening in the draft.

This helps you change your plan fast, guess what other teams might do next – and, ultimately leads you toward smarter picks. 

It's like having a fantasy football expert giving you tips while you're picking your team.

Key Insight

Live draft sync tools offer an advantage by integrating with your draft to provide instant analysis and player recommendations.

Best Way to Execute

Using a live draft sync tool automatically tracks picks to show the best available players. Those player suggestions are based on your needs, your scoring rules, the flow of your draft, and other key value indicators. You’ll get instant advice based on how your draft unfolds.


The Last Step Toward Your Championship …

If the above ways to draft make sense to you, then you might want to check out our Draft Sharks Live Draft Sync.  

It incorporates everything you just read about. Plus quite a few other features and benefits.

Discover how it can turn your 2024 season into a Championship run!! 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best fantasy football strategy?

The best fantasy football strategy relies on properly valuing players within your specific format. Scoring differences -- even minor ones -- can significantly alter positional values. That creates an advantage over your league mates if you're paying close attention to the differences. It's also important to stay flexible as you draft, so that you can take advantage of value picks specific to your draft.

How do beginners prepare for fantasy football draft?

If you're new to fantasy football, then the most important thing you can do is make sure you know and understand your league's specific rules and settings. Understanding exactly how your players score points and your league's position requirements will direct how you should value each player and position. And those values will drive how you draft and make moves. If you're nervous about your draft, then getting a draft assistant that live syncs to your league draft can make drafting much easier.

What is a mock draft?

A mock draft is a draft that simulates the action of an actual fantasy football draft. The only difference is that after a mock draft, you don't do anything else with that team. This kind of practice can be a great help in preparing you for the real thing. Your best method for mock drafting will be to find a mock draft simulator that allows you to draft by your league's exact scoring and lineup settings. Do that, and you'll be way ahead of your competition on draft day.

What position should I draft first in fantasy football?

Most managers should draft a WR with their first pick this season in fantasy football. Six of the top 12 players in our fantasy football rankings are WRs, 5 are RBs, and a single TE slipped into the top 12. But your draft position determines the best player available when it is your turn to select.

No matter what, you should not draft a QB as your first player in a 1-QB league

Who should I pick first in fantasy football?

The first pick in most fantasy football drafts in 2024 should be Christian McCaffrey. If you're not picking first overall in your fantasy football draft, then a WR is most likely to be your best first pick. Exactly who that player should be -- and whether it should be someone at another position -- will depend on your draft position, your league format, and who's available in your draft.

How many RB and WR should I draft?

If you need to start at least two RBs and two WRs every week, then you should plan to draft at least 5-6 RBs and 5-6 WRs. Those numbers increase (or decrease) depending on how many you're required to start at each position and how many flex positions your lineup has. You'll most commonly want to draft 5-7 RBs and 5-8 WRs.

What is the best way to pick fantasy draft order?

The best -- or fairest -- way to pick your fantasy draft order is to randomize it. Most league platforms will randomize the draft order for you, and you can find free randomizers on the internet if needed. Of course, if you don't want to go random, you can base your draft order on last year's league results, a competition with fellow team managers, or any other creative method you come up with.

Is it better to draft early or late in fantasy football?

It's possible to draft a winning team from anywhere in Round 1. The most successful fantasy teams each season don't tend to come from either end of the draft but more toward the middle. So you're generally best off trying to land a draft position somewhere from Pick 3 to Pick 10 in a 12-team league. Of course, the "best" draft position will differ by year -- and even by draft, depending on format, your league settings, and which players remain on the board at each turn.

Lenny Pappano Author Image
Lenny Pappano, Co-Founder
Lenny is a pivotal industry player, co-founding Draft Sharks back in the infancy of fantasy football (1999). He also established the World Championship of Fantasy Football in 2002, receiving the inaugural Matthew Berry “Game Changer Award” in 2018 for its profound impact. Additionally, as a founding Fantasy Sports Writers Association board member, he has helped shape fantasy sports journalism.
Other rankings are stale  before the 2nd round.

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